How to win a hopeless case

I’ve often heard TheBusker chuckle about the many ways to win even the most hopeless of cases. ‘Everything’s winnable once you have a real, living and above all fallible judge sitting in front of you. Maybe you’ll start off chatting about the weather or a particular detail relevant only to him such as his mother’s health or son’s prospering career as a solicitor. But even if the usual lines of attack fail, you should always, and I mean always, have a scales of justice speech up your sleeve. Get that right and it’ll never fail.’

Yet despite the speech having entered the realms of legend, I still haven’t yet experienced it first hand. Well, until last week at least when closing speeches were due on the liability issue in the case I was fighting against him. So with this in mind, you’ll understand why a shiver went down my spine when TheBusker stood up and said,
‘Your Honour, the scales of justice…’

No! Not the scales of justice! Anything but that…please! I stood up to object almost as some kind of Pavlovian reaction. TheBusker gave me a kindly smile and sat down to allow me speak. Which exposed the fact that in reality I had no grounds for stopping him other than stamping my foot and moaning ‘it’s just not fair’. He then stood up to resume his speech.

‘Your Honour, the scales of justice are a finely balanced instrument which have been used down the ages to settle disputes both great and indeed small. A constant in our lives which for most of our lives we simply take for granted. But very occasionally one is faced with an extraordinary decision where then scales are so finely balanced as not to be able to determine whether they are falling down on one side or the other. At those rare times it takes but…’

He theatrically dipped his hand into his suit pocket and as if from nowhere produced…

‘…a small feather to tip the scales one way or the other. Just the very smallest thing to make the difference between one side’s case and the other. Your Honour, this is one such rare cases in which the scales are indeed balanced. We say one thing and the other side say the other but in reality we are equally matched.’

His voice dropped as he continued.

‘Thankfully Your Honour, when the cases are indeed evenly matched then all we ever have to fall back on is the burden of proof and that lies today with the Claimant. Sadly for him, Your Honour, in the absence of that little feather…’ with which he dropped his own one to the ground, ‘the case must be dismissed.’

Well, it was obvious to us all that the judge was utterly charmed by the performance. After that no amount of my trying to tell him that our independent witness counted for enough feathers to fill a whole courtroom was ever going to change his mind.

BabyBarista is a fictional account of a junior barrister practising at the English Bar, written by barrister and writer Tim Kevan. For more information and to read posts from the last few years visit Cartoons by Alex Williams, author of 101 Ways to Leave the Law.

March 3, 2015 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
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